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Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Look up in wonder at two large rock forms that were among the first landmarks 19th-century pioneers saw when they traveled west.

Head out into the plains of central Nebraska to visit the Courthouse and Jail Rocks. These two unusual rock formations rise approximately 240 feet (73 meters) above nearby Pumpkin Creek and served as guiding landmarks for 19th-century pioneers heading west. 

Routes that passed by the rocks include the Pony Express Trail and the Mormon Trail and they are mentioned in the journals of many emigrants. Over the years both have been known by several different names, but the current designations appeared to have become fixed around the 1840s. Courthouse Rock was so-called because of its resemblance to a grand public building.

Park close to the rock forms and before walking over toward them read the historical marker. In brief detail, it covers the historical significance of the large structures and their geology. They are part of the Wildcat Hills, an escarpment that also includes Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock. As the name suggests this towering conical form resembles a chimney. Its slender spire rises up 315 feet (96 meters) from its conical base.

If you’re feeling energetic climb up to the top of Courthouse or Jail rocks. From the summit take in expansive views of the valley and the surrounding region which includes Chimney Rock, located approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.

To get to the Courthouse and Jail Rocks drive 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) south of Bridgeport on Highway 88. Note there are no facilities, such as restrooms, on site. There is a free parking lot. The rocks can be visited daily year round from sunrise to sunset and access is free. 

If you want to know more about the settlers who moved west and would have passed by Court House and Jail Rocks visit the Pioneer Trails Museum while you are in Bridgeport. View artifacts from early settlers such as clothes, parts of stagecoaches and everyday items such as crockery and pots and pans.


Guide to Exploring around Courthouse and Jail Rocks


Best Lodging Options Near Courthouse and Jail Rocks

See all 4 Properties near Courthouse and Jail Rocks
Cobblestone Inn & Suites - Bridgeport $81
Cobblestone Inn & Suites - Bridgeport

Cobblestone Inn & Suites - Bridgeport

517 Main St, Bridgeport, NE
     
    2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in the heart of Bridgeport, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Prairie Winds Community Center and Bridgeport State Recreation Area. Courthouse and Jail Rocks and Chimney Rock National Historic Site are also within 16 mi (25 km).

    Meadowlark Inn Bridgeport $59
    Meadowlark Inn Bridgeport

    Meadowlark Inn Bridgeport

    North Highway 385, Bridgeport, NE
       
      2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in Bridgeport, this motel is 0.4 mi (0.6 km) from Bridgeport State Recreation Area and 14.5 mi (23.4 km) from Chimney Rock National Historic Site.

      Meadow Park Motel on 385 $58
      Meadow Park Motel on 385

      Meadow Park Motel on 385

      9868 Hwy 385, Bridgeport, NE
         
        2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Bridgeport, this motel is 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Bridgeport State Recreation Area and within 12 mi (20 km) of Prairie Winds Community Center and Courthouse and Jail Rocks. Chimney Rock National Historic Site and Minatare Lake State Recreation Area are also within 32 mi (52 km).